Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Virtue of Virtue Ethics

If it's done nothing else, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue has given me the ability to understand why this paragraph by Sam Wells gets ethics rights:

Virtue ethics puts habits in the place where commands used to be. Let's take marriage for example. Rather than saying 'Do not commit adultery', it says 'eat together every evening.' With eating together every evening, somebody has to go shopping, somebody has to prepare the food, somebody has to clear up afterwards, somebody has to say every single time: 'Should we put flowers on the table?' When the phone rings: 'Shall we answer it?' Every single gesture is actually building up a marriage or reducing it. Every single time you must decide to arrange food on the plate or to dump it down in front of your partner. All of those things can be done with care and love, they can be done punctually or they can be done aggressively. If you get eating together in the evening right, you've got a marriage. Even if you don't commit adultery, there are a hundred other ways to destroy a marriage. You might not even notice that your marriage is falling apart because, you think: 'We kept the rule so it's not our fault, I haven't chased anybody.' Living virtuously becomes about developing a habit, in this case, what it means to eat together every evening.

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